I went to my barber (“hair stylist” if you fain yourself sophisticated) a few days ago and when she was finished cutting my hair she wanted to show me the back. She turned me around in the chair so that my back was to the larger mirror and with a smaller hand-held mirror she showed me the back of my head. I was supposed to give my assessment of the style, but what I noticed was my neck. I had my grandfather’s neck with deep lines and creases. When did that happen?
As a boy I remember seeing his crisscrossed neck and wondering if it hurt to get that permanent kind of marking on a place as sensitive as your neck.
Of course it didn’t hurt, not physically anyway, but on another level it did hurt. Because to live long enough to acquire your grandfather’s neck-lines, means you have lived a while in a sometimes brutal world. Sometimes the world’s brutality is just because mankind has junked it up with sin. Sometimes my world is brutal because of what other people have done to me. More often my world is brutal because of what I have done to myself.
Areosmith’s song Dream On has a stanza that describes this:
Every time that I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face gettin’ clearer
The past is gone
It went by like dust to dawn
Isn’t that the way
Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay
I turned 50 years old today. That is the same age my grandfather was when I was born. No wonder I have his age-markings. I wrote in my journal this morning:
I am glad to be 50 years old today. It could be worse. I could be in Junior High or even dead. Sometimes I wish I were thirty again, so I could avoid so much sin and destruction that I caused in my late thirties and early forty’s. But then I wonder if I would be the same person I am today if I hadn’t gone through all of that. Probably not.
I wonder if the pain and suffering has done its good work in me? Am I really substantially different? Or am I still the same old Joe…just heavier, grayer and with deeper age-markings on my neck?
I don’t know if I have changed, only others can really tell that. But here is what I want: I want to know that my destructive behavior some 10 years ago is not the ultimate truth about Joseph Oren Chambers.
Have I changed? Yes! I have received a brand new core identity. I received it when I followed, believed and committed my life to Jesus 43 years ago. I have been changed from the inside out. It is my responsibility to mature into who I actually am.
If I took a caterpillar to a biologist and asked him to describe it’s DNA, he would say something like, “I know this looks like a wooly worm to you, but scientifically, in every testable way, the DNA tests results says that this is fully and completely a butterfly.”
Wow! God has wired into a creature that looks nothing like a butterfly a perfectly complete butterfly identity. And because a caterpillar is a butterfly in essence, it will one day display the behaviors and attributes of a butterfly. The caterpillar matures into what is already true about its nature. It is a butterfly, but doesn’t look or act like one…yet.
And so it is with me. God has given me the DNA of godliness and righteousness…the DNA of Jesus.
Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from God…” 2 Cor. 5:17 (MSG)
It would be a shame to waste the lines on my neck. I must aggressively cooperate with the Holy Spirit and remember who I am. I am Christ in Joe Chambers. I have the DNA of Jesus. I have royal blood coursing through my veins.
Now, I must live as if I were butterfly, not a worm.